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I will start by stating that I am reading this graphic novel in 2016, and I am reviewing it according to the reading experience I’ve had at this moment in time. I have heard so many good things about this book, and while I completely understand the reasons why it had been considered a masterpiece of its time, it is also difficult for me to disregard certain flaws and see it from a perspective of what it might have represented back then.
Watchmen includes a cast of complex , flawed and overall “grey” characters, who make you constantly question the meaning of morality. There is no true villain, no true hero; no right or wrong, simply a matter of perspective – and a great dose of self-righteousness.
This approach obviously defied the traditional superhero concept, by adding meaning and very human traits to previously black and white type of characters.
A beautiful essay on hypocrisy and the very specific nature of humankind, Watchmen explores humanity, politics, morality, and everything in between. While someone tries to enforce his anarchic ideals upon the entire world, someone else with enough power to make a change, chooses to do nothing. In this aspect, Watchmen is deep, beautiful, thought provoking even.
Another great thing is the art, despite being obviously outdated nowadays. The carefully crafted visual motifs and patterns, the configuration of the panels, the parallelism between scenes, it all flows seamlessly.
My biggest issue with Watchmen is how women were portrayed. Trying not to get into a deeply controversial debate about sexism, the explanation could be as simple as Moore can’t write female characters. I would go so far as to say that women are pretty useless in this book. They don’t exist independently, their purposes are either romantically or sexually related. Considering this graphic novel represented pretty much a revolution in the comics genre, it’s sad that this revolution didn’t extend to the portrayal of female characters.
My other issue had to do with the fact I wasn’t emotionally engaged. The complexity of the characters could have made them more relatable, but instead, I found myself unable to connect or relate to any of them. And this leads to another deep internal debate: Why are all characters in Watchmen so difficult to relate to? Is it because we feel we are somehow better, as humans?
About the story itself, the pacing also felt slow, didn’t engage me enough to want to turn the page. In fact, at some point, the book felt more as an essay than an actual story. This influenced my levels of enjoyment and entertainment, and while these are highly personal and subjective, it will of course have an impact on my personal rating.
Overall, Watchmen is a great read and a major turning point in the comics genre, full of symbolism and historic influences. I’d still recommend it, specially if you are a comics fan. It might be a Hugo Award-winning novel and considered as one of the 100 greatest novels by Time Magazine, but of course doesn’t mean everyone will like it.
To me, this is Silver.
Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore
This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.
One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial bestseller, WATCHMEN has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V FOR VENDETTA, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE SANDMAN series.